School's In

There have been many days of preparation and anticipation for my first day of school here in Oakland. I spent most of last week at Edna Brewer Middle School — getting my room ready, meeting students and parents at registration, learning about Restorative Practice, trying to crack the impenetrable shell of the OUSD data systems to find the names of my students, and meeting other teachers. I spent all of July in Los Angeles learning what it means to write lesson plans and teach kids how to read more fluently and with greater comprehension, and to write with style and clarity. I have been interacting with two very different institutions — Teach For America and the Oakland Unified School District. One is a big, slow moving, well intentioned, and deeply bureaucratic battleship of an institution and the other is Teach For America.

I’ve met wonderful people who care about children, who want to bring real creativity to bear on the problem of educational inequity and social injustice. These people work for OUSD, for the Los Angeles Unified School District, for Teach For America, and for Loyola Marymount University. At the risk of overlooking dozens of people who helped me reach this day, I will name a few who have been extremely helpful in giving me the confidence to do this work. Richard Pelayo, my advisor at TFA Summer Institute; Rachel Torrey, our Curriculum Specialist and cheerleader; Jake Jabbour, my teaching partner at View Park Prep Middle School in LA; Sam Pasarow, the principal at Edna Brewer who gave me a job; Billy Lieberknecht, my TFA program director (and predecessor at Edna Brewer); Meg Stewart, a rockstar teacher and mentor; and, of course, Anna, my mother, my Aunt Chris, the three rockstar teachers in my family who have offered advice, love, and support.

The time is short, the need is great, and I have to get on my bike now and get to work. Wish me well.

Monday August 30, 2010 — Mark — Education